Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cauliflower Poppers 3 Ways: Buffalo, Honey BBQ, & Cheesy Jalapeño

Ah, the super bowl. The best snack-eating, commercial-watching, couch-potato-ing day of the year! Oh yeah, and the football too. I'm not a huge sports fan, if you couldn't tell, but I mean no disrespect. There absolutely is something electric about game day that draws even the non sports-watchers in. For me, there is a certain level of excitement and camaraderie about it that I miss from watching games with my dad growing up. If nothing else, it's fun to hang out with good friends, eat yummy snacks, and pretend to be part of the sports community for a day. This year I'll be eating these delicious cauliflower poppers and rooting for whichever team my dad is rooting for - it's my little nod to him - love you, dad! I hope you'll give these a try and let me know what you think!

Getting Started

Full disclosure: this recipe took me foooooorrrreeeeevvverrrr. Like an hour and a half kind of forever. It turned out freakin' awesome, but omg I almost quit halfway through. It was coming up on time to feed my son, my hands were covered in batter and breadcrumbs, I was running out of oil, and I only had half of the cauliflower cooked. I wanted to cry a little bit. Luckily my hubby swooped in to help and saved the day, but my suggestion to you and to myself the next time I make this is: PREP AHEAD OF TIME. I could have saved myself so much time if I had put some of this together the day before. If your cauliflower is washed, separated and dried; your crumbs and spices tossed together; and your cheese mixture ready to go, you've already saved yourself so much trouble. With that being said, I'll tell you how I made these delicious poppers. Time consuming, but worth consuming...no? Ok, let's get started.

Start by washing, separating, and drying your cauliflower florets really well - this can be done the day before and you can keep your dried florets in a large ziploc bag until you're ready. I cut off most of the stems so they would be more like poppers, but you can leave them on if you want. For the jalapeño version the stem can help keep together the florets with bigger spaces, so you might want to leave those a little longer than the others.

Next make your batter, toss together the crumb mixture, and mix up your jalapeño cheese filling. As I mentioned above, I recommend making the cheese and breadcrumb mixtures ahead to save time. Once everything is ready, take 1/3 of the florets and start "stuffing" your jalapeno cheese poppers with the cheese mixture. To do this, pick out the cauliflower pieces that have the most spaces in between/underneath and kind of mash (I'm sure there's a better word, but the only other one I can think of right now is "cram," so I'll stick with mash) the cheese mixture into the empty spaces. Here's a picture to demonstrate:

Not the best picture, but you can see what I mean. Set those aside to cook last, since they have cheese that can ooze out into the oil.

Next, start coating your other 2/3 florets in the batter. Shake the excess off, roll in the breadcrumb mixture, then drop right into the oil. I recommend making them in batches. I think I was able to cook about 8 at a time. While one batch is cooking, you can coat more, but your hands will get messy. If you can get them ready before you start frying it will probably make things go more smoothly. Cook until the florets are nice and golden. Make sure to turn them frequently for even browning, especially if your oil does not completely cover them. Once they are done, set on a plate or platter lined with paper towels to help drain the excess oil. Do the same thing for your cheese stuffed poppers, just be careful not to disturb the cheese mixture while you are turning them in the pan.

Side note: keep extra oil on hand. I was able to get through about 2/3 of my florets before having to dump the oil and start fresh. Since a lot of crumbs fall to the bottom of your pan, they can start to burn and change the flavor of your oil. If the oil starts to get really dark, foamy, or starts to smell fishy, then you definitely need to dump the oil and start fresh. (I looked this up before cooking because I wasn't sure what to look for - as I mentioned in my Roasted Veggie Chimichanga post, I'm not a frequent fryer.)

Once your poppers are done frying, heat up your BBQ and Buffalo sauces in separate pans. I guessed at how much you need in the ingredients below - really you just need enough to coat your poppers. Add the honey to the BBQ sauce and stir well. I also added a pat of butter to the Buffalo sauce because I think you're supposed to do that - it turned out good, so I'm sticking with it! Once your sauces start to bubble, add your florets (except the jalapeño ones) and toss until well coated. I let the honey BBQ poppers cook a little bit longer so the honey could caramelize a bit.

A note about sauces - I just used my favorite BBQ sauce, which is the Raley's brand Memphis Style. You can go with whatever your favorite sauce is. I also just picked up a random Buffalo style sauce - Franks Red Hot Wings - it turned out pretty good.

That's it! Serve immediately and watch them disappear! Blue cheese and ranch dressings make good dipping sauces, and I think next time I will sprinkle some finely grated cheddar cheese over the top of my jalapeño poppers while they are still hot. I hope you enjoy these tasty treats, and may your game day be filled with food, friends, and a winning team :)


Breadcrumb Mixture:
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (in hindsight, I would have used 1/2 tsp, but it still turned out yummy)

Cheese Filling*:
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 jalapeño seeded and finely chopped (next time I think I will add the whole jalapeño - the one I had was not super spicy)

4 eggs, lightly beaten
7-8 Tbs flour (I used whole wheat flour because that's what I had)

Remaining Ingredients:
2 heads of cauliflower, washed and separated into florets - divide evenly into three piles and dry well
3/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (about half the bottle)
1/4 cup Honey
3/4 cup Buffalo sauce (about half the bottle)
1 Tbs Butter
Vegetable oil for frying - not sure how much, but probably about 2-3 cups

* Note: I used every bit of the cheese filling and batter. If my cauliflowers had been larger, I would have needed more.

Looking for something else fried and delicious?? Try out my Roasted Veggie Chimichangas!

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